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Bear’s Nest Condominium Association v. Bergen County Board of Taxation

2009 WL 3430318 (N.J. Tax Ct. 2009)

CONDOMINIUMS; TAXATION — A condominium association does not have standing to file a tax appeal on behalf of its unit owners nor can the unit owners file a class action in a tax appeal.

In November 2005, a tax assessor sought approval to re-assess all condominium units within two complexes governed by a single association. The county’s governing board approved the proposed increases. The assessor completed the re-assessment and included the revised assessments in the county’s proposed tax list for 2006. The affected unit owners each received notice that their property was being re-assessed and received formal notice of their assessment, as required under the applicable statute (Chapter 75 Notice), not later than February 1, 2006. The time for filing a conventional tax appeal under the statute for re-assessed properties was April 3, 2006. The association requested that the county set aside the new assessment since the prior year’s assessment level had generally been preserved for the property in the municipality that had not been re-assessed. On March 8, 2006, the board rejected the association’s request and left the objectors to seek relief in the Tax Court. On April 17, 2006, the association filed an action to challenge the assessment. The county responded by arguing that the 2006 assessments placed on the affected units were subject to review only in timely filed tax appeals of individual units, that the association did not have standing to question the association as a group, and that its action was, in any event, untimely. The association claimed that the county’s March 8 action was reviewable as an exercise of the county’s authority to approve the re-assessment, that the approval was improper, and that the time within which review could be sought was forty-five days from the March 8 date.

The Tax Court upheld the county board’s determination. It agreed with the board that the assessments placed on the affected condominium units were subject to review only in a timely filed tax appeal of individual units. The Court also mentioned that a decisive flaw in the association’s argument was its characterization of the March 8 action as a determination which could be the subject of Court review. It held that when the county denied the association’s request to restore the prior year’s assessment, it was not taking formal action since its decision to accept the partial re-assessment, as required under the statute, had already been made. Further, it noted that the unit owners had received the “Chapter 75 Notice” as of February 1, 2006. The Court determined that unless the assessment was changed subsequent to the initial Chapter 75 Notice – which was not the case here – the time for appeal was determined from the date of initial notice and ran through April 3, 2006. Since the timely filing of a tax assessment appeal is a jurisdictional requirement that is strictly enforced, and the filing of this appeal occurred two weeks after the last date for a timely appeal expired, the Court ruled that it could not consider the association’s appeal. The Court also held that the association had adequate notice of the assessment and received the board’s response (in which it refused to consider the association’s request) almost a month before April 3 and yet it failed to timely file an appeal. Further, although the Court opined that the case could be dismissed for timeliness issues alone, it mentioned that it also had a basis to dismiss because there was no authority for associational standing or for class actions to contest tax assessments in bulk.

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